Most people have a preference, whether it’s gold or silver, but if you’re new to jewellery buying how do you know which metal to go for? Here’s our helpful guide to metal types to help you decide.
Gold is considered a precious metal and is hugely popular in jewellery. You will often see it in its yellow form, the traditional colour, but it is also available in rose and white. It is the easiest metal type to look after, as it doesn’t tarnish, so you will have no problem in keeping your gold jewellery looking shiny and new. Most commonly used in jewellery is 9ct or 14ct, anything higher than 22ct is not suitable for jewellery due to the softness of the metal.
Not too sure what ct means? Well here’s a little breakdown:
|Karat Measure||Gold Purity|
|9ct Gold||37.5% pure gold|
|14ct Gold||58.5% pure gold|
|18ct Gold||75% pure gold|
|22ct Gold||91.6% pure gold|
|24ct Gold||100% pure gold|
Yellow gold is seen to be a timeless colour for jewellery, having been used in jewellery for almost 6000 years, and that is why you will see it the most out of the three colour varieties. The pure gold is mixed with alloy metals, such as copper and zinc, to make the gold suitable for jewellery.
Historically, yellow gold is the most popular metal choice for wedding and engagement bands, and is the easiest to maintain out of the three gold colours.
Rose gold is a recently popular gold variety, and is often seen as the more ‘youthful’ gold option. Gold is mixed with copper to get its gorgeous pink hue which works well with all skin tones. As copper is considered to be a strong metal, rose gold is said to be tougher than yellow or white gold.
Rose gold is also considered to be a ‘romantic’ metal due to its colouring.
Becoming popular in the 1920’s, white gold is frequently used for wedding and engagement rings, as a cheaper alternative to platinum. Currently, white gold is more popular than yellow gold for engagement and wedding bands.
To get its silver tone, gold is mixed with a white alloy, this is usually nickel, palladium or magnesium. These are stronger metals than that which yellow gold is predominantly mixed with, therefore making it more durable. Due to it’s neutral colour, it works well with all gemstone colours.
Looking after 9ct gold items
- To clean your gold jewellery, we recommend using a soft toothbrush and some cleaning spray to get your gold looking brand new again. When you have finished polishing, make sure to rinse the item well with warm water, and ensure it is left to air dry properly. Once the item is dry, polish it with a polishing cloth.
Pros of 9ct gold:
- durable/doesn’t rust or tarnish
- low-maintenance/easy to look after and clean
- wont lose it’s colouring over time
Cons of 9ct gold:
- can get scratched if worn on a daily basis
- nickel may be present in the gold alloy, therefore may not be suitable for those with a nickel allergy
As a metal, platinum is very hard and does not tarnish easily, which makes it a great option for everyday jewellery. Since it is a hard and durable metal, you will often see it being used to set diamonds and other precious stones. It’s colour is similar to that of silver, but tends to have a much more expensive and beautiful sheen to it, which actually develops slowly over time. Its properties make it extremely popular for wedding jewellery such as wedding bands.
As platinum is a pure metal, unlike the gold and silver used for jewellery, it is naturally hypoallergenic. This means that it is a great metal choice for people who have sensitive skin and are prone to reacting to other metals. The most traditional platinum used for jewellery will be marked with the 950 mark, which symbolises that it contains 95% platinum.
Looking after platinum items
- Platinum may be durable, but we recommend removing platinum jewellery, especially rings, when carrying out tasks whereby the jewellery could come into contact with a hard surface – this is to avoid deep marks in the items which could require professional polishing.
- To keep your platinum jewellery in it’s best condition, we would recommend regular polishing with a specialist spray and a soft cloth.
Pros of platinum:
- durable and doesn’t tarnish
- gets better and more shiny with age
- can be passed down to future generations
- naturally white, so won’t change colour
Cons of platinum:
- platinum jewellery is typically more expensive than gold jewellery due to is rarity
Sterling silver is a popular metal type in jewellery due to its more affordable price point in comparison to white gold. You may hear this referred to as .925 sterling silver, which just refers to the makeup of the silver – in the case of .925 sterling silver, it is made up of 92.5% pure silver and is then mixed with other alloys to make it harder and more durable.
It is a timeless option due to its neutral colour, however does tarnish over time, so we would recommend taking silver jewellery off when in the shower and when swimming just to prevent tarnishing, and also regularly polishing. You can find out more about how to care for your sterling silver jewellery in our guide
Looking after sterling silver items:
- regular polishing with a gentle polish such as Silvo
- removing when swimming, showering or exercising
- do not let items come into contact with perfumes, sun cream, oils and other cosmetic products
Pros of sterling silver:
- more affordable than gold
- luminous in colour
Cons of sterling silver:
- tarnishes quicker than other metal types, so requires regular polishing
- silver is a relatively soft metal so may scratch and bend with regular wear
- nickel may be present in the alloy used, therefore may not be suitable for those with a nickel allergy
Some silver and gold items will have a hallmark, you can read more about hallmarking here.
Stainless steel is a very common metal type for jewellery due to its resistance to rust, oxidisation and discoloration. When getting a new piercing, it is likely that they will provide you with a stainless steel piece of jewellery as it is considered hypoallergenic and allows piercings to heal faster, as well as being a lightweight option.
Looking after stainless steel
- stainless steel can get a little grubby over time, however it is easy to clean with a soft cloth and mild detergent.
Pros of stainless steel:
- does not tarnish or oxidise
- can withstand a lot of wear and tear
- is generally hypoallergenic
Cons of stainless steel
- stainless steel can sometimes include nickel, so is not always suitable for those with a nickel allergy
- it is a rigid metal and therefore you are likely to find that stainless steel jewellery is more plain in design than you would find with other metal types
Surgical steel is a type of stainless steel with specific alloys to allow for it to be used for jewellery, and is most commonly used with body jewellery. It is seen as a good option for those who have metal allergies, although it should be recognised that this metal type contains nickel.
Surgical steel has the greatest amount of corrosion resistance and is designated for medical primarily.
Titanium is seen as a durable metal and therefore makes a great choice for jewellery that is to be worn everyday. Although in general being a hard metal is a positive thing, the hardness of titanium does limits the styles and formations that the metal can hold. It is commonly used to hold diamonds and gemstones however.
*image source: Bence Fördős
Popular with men, the colour of titanium is similar to that of white gold and platinum, but unlike these options, titanium is not nearly as expensive due to its abundance as one of the top 10 most commonly found metals in the earths crust!
Fun fact: titanium is also said to have health benefits, and is associated with soothing pain
Looking after titanium
- Titanium is unlikely to tarnish however it is easy enough to clean if it does get a little dirty. To clean titanium jewellery, wash it in a very mild soapy solution and rinse well with cold water. Ensure that you dry it with a soft cloth also. You can get any heavy scratches professionally polished out, however smaller ones are easy enough to remove yourself with a polishing cloth.
Pros of titanium:
- easily available
- is said to relieve pain
Cons of titanium
- tends to have a matte finish so will not shine
- titanium is not resizable, so if buying rings you must ensure you get the right size
Tungsten, also known as tungsten carbide, is a very strong and hard metal with a steel-grey colour. Unlike other metals used for jewellery, such as gold, silver and platinum, tungsten has a very high scratch resistance, which makes it good for jewellery which is going to be worn everyday. It’s durability and heavy weight makes it a popular metal choice for men’s wedding bands and jewellery that will last a lifetime.
Looking after tungsten:
- tungsten should be kept clean with a soft cloth, and should be kept away from other jewellery to avoid it causing damage to other pieces
Pros of tungsten:
- doesn’t require regular polishing, as it always looks new and shiny
- very hard-wearing
- can also be inlaid with metals such as gold and platinum for two-tone jewellery
Cons of tungsten:
- there’s not as wide a range of tungsten jewellery available as there is for the other metal types
- it’s durability means that tungsten rings cannot be resized
Hopefully our guide to metal types has helped you understand a little more about the different metal types available and which properties you need to consider before making your choice.